793%20South%20Van%20Ness%20Site.jpg
The gas station at the corner of 19th Street and South Van Ness Avenue stopped pumping gas at the end of 2004. An application to build five-story mixed use building upon the site was filed in 2005. And in early 2008, the construction of a 50-foot tall building with 29 dwelling units, 29 parking spaces, and 4,600 square feet of ground-floor retail, commercial space or Production, Distribution and Repair space was approved to be built at 793 South Van Ness Avenue (click either of the following renderings to enlarge):


As proposed the project would contain, 13 two-bedroom units, and 16 three-bedroom units. The residential lobby is provided off of 19th Street. The project sponsor intends to satisfy the Inclusionary Housing Requirement by providing the three (3) below-market rate units on-site. An approximately 11-foot wide garage opening would be located on 19th Street to provide ingress and egress to the residential parking.


Per the terms of Planning’s approval for the development, “Condition of Approval Number 11 deemed the authorization and rights vested…null and void if within three years…a site permit or building permit for the Project had not been secured by Project Sponsor.”
With three years having passed and the site permit which was approved in 2009 cancelled in 2011, the owners of the entitlements have dusted off their plans and are now seeking an extension of their window to start construction at 793 South Van Ness to October 2014.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Steve

    About as exciting as the parking lot/service station that it is replacing.

  2. Posted by anon

    About as exciting as the parking lot/service station that it is replacing.
    Except that it will bring 50+ new residents to the neighborhood. A gigantic plus in my book, like off the charts better.
    Pretty stubby though – why not 7-8 stories or more?

  3. Posted by curmudgeon

    In response to anon, but also to the general “why not higher” comments that pops up all the time…
    filling in the holes of the urban fabric with relatively dense development that is within the overall character of the location does a great deal of good (as you acknowledge). Every building doesn’t have to be high to have a dense city….look at Paris or virtually any European city for example. This building is probably a little tall for its immediate context, but certainly still “fits” within a dense walkable Mission. I’m happy with the height.

  4. Posted by anon

    I’m not looking for skyscrapers, but something in the 7-8 story range that dominates places like Paris. The overall context of an area can increase if we allow taller buildings to be built (ie, make this 8 stories, and then in 20 years when a couple of its neighbors are ready to be redeveloped, we’re looking at an increase of those to 8 stories, rather than locking the entire neighborhood in the current height in perpetuity).
    Much of it is simply that when you build something, you know it’s going to last for 80-100+ years. Why not think ahead a bit?

  5. Posted by Alai

    The difference between SF and Paris is that Paris uses a far smaller part of its land area on roads, parking, and other automotive uses, which means that the seven stories cover a larger area and create a significantly higher density, and which makes it much nicer to walk around.

  6. Posted by Steve

    There are a few more differences between SF and Paris.

  7. Posted by spencer

    “look at Paris or virtually any European city for example. This building is probably a little tall for its immediate context, but certainly still “fits” within a dense walkable Mission. I’m happy with the height.”
    Having lived in PARIS, what are you talking about. Every building is 6-7 floors, and that was from a 400 yr old housing density plan. I personally don’t see the point in any new buildings in SF being less than 6 floors

  8. Posted by EBGuy

    Five wood stories over a 1 story concrete podium is, I believe, the most cost effective structure you can build (and the highest you can go with a wood frame). You have to go much higher to get more bang for your buck using structural steel. IANASE…. YMMMV.

  9. Posted by Snark17

    It’s a useful addition to the neighborhood and also a very boring cookie-cutter design. As someone outside the field I wonder if architects lack ambition or are they sheep that follow what everyone else does. It’s puzzling.

  10. Posted by 22ndStBoy

    If rents continue to increase as they have, it may start to make sense to build quality buildings with quality designs out of quality materials (as in Paris) and be majority rented. Otherwise we just get more bland buildings, that are built to survive the 10 year limits of liability. There is no incentive to not build the same building type every time, as bland and uninspiring as it may be. Its a shame. There are talented architects in the area, they just are not utilized for these projects.

  11. Posted by James

    Architects are neither unambitious nor sheep… Well, some of them might be, but the real culprit is that developers are cost-conscious. Most projects are only meant to be functional and profitable, so they hire architects that will do that.

  12. Posted by Martwriter

    Anythng is better than an eight-year shuttered gas station. Of course it’s not great architecture. It’s likely by john Sullivna, who did 222 Valencia, plus the just openeing 14th/Valencia buidling. I’ve opposed him before, but not now; He brings good folks to the neighborhood, and increases the vitality of the whole area.

  13. Posted by Steve

    The problem isn’t necessarily cost-consciousness of developers. There are certainly those who will absolutely cut every corner (including designing without professionals and using cheapest possible materials without regard to appearance or maintainability) to maximize their profit above all else. We unfortunately can’t do much about them.
    I know from personal experience though that they’re not all like that. My Dad was a small-scale developer on the east coast and, bless his dear-dead soul, didn’t have a whit of taste to his name. But he did care about quality (which for him in the 70′s and 80′s meant durability, maintainability and energy-efficiency) and would pay more for it for its own sake – even if it wasn’t necessarily the most efficient financial decision.
    I’m not saying that I have any bright ideas how to do this, but I think the key is getting to and educating those developers who might be willing to spend a little bit more on good design and high-quality materials on how to get the right person or firm to work with them on better projects could create enthusiasm for similarly conceived projects elsewhere – benefitting us all.
    As long as I’m on my soapbox, one more point: good design doesn’t have to be more expensive than bad (or uninspired) design. I learned that lesson from a good friend who used to work with LMS a while back – he could design anything on a very limited budget and almost always make it work. It’s when expectations and budget are misaligned that problems occur, imo.
    Now if we could only do something about those Planning Commission who are nothing but a bunch of political hacks who think they have more design talent than the professionals who propose projects before them…

  14. Posted by calabrese68

    It’s easier to have generally acceptable design than cutting edge. If it’s too “original” than it will receive far more resistance from the NIMBYs.

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